Life in the art world

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  The art world, like many professions, is a world unto its own.  I love listening to artists talk about their work.  There is something almost magical to it.  You see the excitement and the creativity right before your very eyes.  But, like many businesses, you have to be in it to win it but particularly in the art world.  Gallery support is key.

The art world is being slammed with the downturn in the economy.  As always, there are a few silver linings.  Instead of seeing speculators in the art market, we are going to see true collectors stay in.  People who love art, who enjoy the world of art, want to support the artists and see works on their walls every day of the week. 

My friends Mom, who happened to be a major art dealer in the 70's told me she was sick of the art world about 3 years ago.  She was at the art auctions (Sotheby's, Christies, etc.) and there was a Richard Prince on the auction block.  She was sitting next to 2 young guys, hate to be judgmental here, but two young investment bankers.  One guy says to the other that he has heard Richard Prince is really great, worth buying.  The other guy says, ok, and proceeds to buy the pieces for over a million bucks without batting an eye.  She said this piece of art didn't speak to this guy, he had no love for it, he just figured it was a great place to rest his money and supposedly Prince was a cool thing to have.  She was so upset by the entire transaction she told me she was done with the auctions.  Lucky for her, the art world has taken a major change.  These type of buyers are leaving the art market and the prices will begin to reflect the true value of the work.

Today I was sent a piece that has just gone on the market for half the value it sold for 12 months ago.  An absolutely fantastic piece.  I wonder how much lower the price will go, what is the true value at this point. Regardless, the person who sent me the piece pointed out 2 really important things.  People who have been priced out of the markets for years are returning to the market because they can buy again and they know the true value of the work. Hence, the real collector vs the speculator.  But more important is that in times like these you see great art being made because the artists come off the tread mill and are able to be creative.  This is where the cream will really rise to the top.

As a collector, I am looking forward to see what type of work gets made in times like these. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. ryan poll

    As the son of an opera singer, and an art major who is creating a web startup, but who dreams of being a professional artist (can afford to paint all day), I love this post. I don’t even know where to begin but you hit on a major issue with what is the “value” of art. Having worked at two art galleries, I loved hearing true collectors talk about art. That is, the people who LOVE it for what it is, not the investment. The investment is just the gravy. There are very few things in life that you can buy and enjoy or “use” and still have the value go up. But the genius of the true art collector is that when the value doesn’t go up, they don’t care. I have been lucky enough to see this in both people that could hardly afford the art, and others that could buy and sell small countries.

  2. ellen

    As a collector of many things this is a great time to buy. Like real estate all types of things were heavily inflated. Prices have come down, because of course CASH IS KING. People are liquidating their stuff because their portfolios are down. More stuff on the market. People would rather have cash instead of that pricey canvas on the wall or that huge diamond on their finger. The speculators are still there. Now they are buying, because that million dollar painting is selling for $600,00 so it has to be a DEAL.. The concept of the sale or bargain. Believe me people are still buying because of the signature and not for the appreciation. I have had a couple of art dealer friends. One could care less whether someone “appreciates” a picture. This dealer , now dead , was one of the biggest private European art dealers in Boston. To him it was always a business.. When times were great he was buying like mad and when times started to go down hill he was always liquidating before the crash. He did not want to have warehouses full of unsaleable paintings. He was very well repected in the field.Another dealer friend owns the Zaplin-Lampert Gallery in Santa Fe. He has wonderful paintings and oher artwork specializing in the Taos school. He has an incredible eye and a wide price range. He is very enthusiatic about everything he buys and hopes others can see the beauty in each of the pictures he has. Although, his business is still excellent , I am sure he isn’t getting as many customers as before just like everyone else. I haven’t talked to him, but if someone wanted an O’Keefe just for the name recognition or for the investment value, he wouldn’t be adverse to selling to them. After all this is his business.The reason why this time is different from our last downturn is because it is more global. I would sit in a particular auction and while our economy was bad, there was this one Japanese buyer who spent millions because the yen was so strong. It was a bit disheartening for an American. collector.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You hit it on the head. We are leaving in a global world which makesdownturn very different.

  3. randy ayn

    Good album too.

  4. Yule Heibel

    How oddly serendipitous… I joined some Victoria people for a tweetup this afternoon (I almost didn’t go because the cafe was so PACKED with Sunday sea-side strollers), and while there I met Jennifer Ross who just moved to Victoria from Boulder, CO and is friends with Brad & Amy Feld. Jennifer’s business?, described as “art. socialized.”Jenn got into this because she’s a collector herself. Exactly the kind of person who can put some integrity into the art market…!

    1. Gotham Gal

      We are all one degree of separation particularly the older we get.